At long last: Hawaii Superferry relaunches service

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It was "business as usual" when the Hawaii Superferry's Alakai departed Oahu for Maui at 6:30 a.m. Thursday in its long-awaited relaunch of service.

"I'm on the ship right now and we are heading to Maui," Hawaii Superferry spokeswoman Lori Abe told TravelWeekly.com during a telephone interview from on aboard the ferry. "Everything is going great."

According to published reports, about 100 protestors turned out in Maui; the protests were peaceful and no arrests were made.

Originally, the inter-island ferry was slated to resume service on Dec. 1. However, Maui's Kahului Harbor suffered minor damage during a recent storm swell. The relaunch date was pushed back to Dec. 6, but repairs to the harbor took longer than expect.

The inter-island ferry service, capable of carrying more than 800 passengers and 300 vehicles, originally launched on Aug. 29, about the same time Hawaii's Supreme Court ruled an environmental study would have to be conducted before it could begin operating.

The ruling spurred environmental groups, long critical of the service, to stage protests and file lawsuits against the ferry, which soon suspended operations.

The court later imposed an injunction against the ferry, mandating that it remain docked until after the state completed an environmental study.

The island's government, however, contended mandating such a study was unusual since it was not required of other modes of transportation.

A special session of Hawaii's legislature went on to pass legislation signed into law by the state's governor, Linda Lingle, that permits Hawaii Superferry to resume service while the environmental study is conducted by the state.

The law also compels Hawaii Superferry to adhere to certain operating conditions designed to minimize its impact on the environment and particularly the humpback whales that inhabit the waters around the islands.

The court then lifted the injunction, which allowed Hawaii Superferry to resume service.

Now with the controversial, legal challenges and environmental protest behind it, Hawaii Superferry is finally sailing again.

Said Abe: "It is business as usual today."

To contact reporter Michael Milligan, send e-mail to [email protected].

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